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Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

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Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  martha on 12/4/2014, 12:06 pm

If so, what was it like? At all profitable? Some weeks, most weeks, almost never, almost always?

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  sanderson on 12/4/2014, 1:11 pm

Excellent question!!

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Kelejan on 12/4/2014, 5:10 pm

I was once a vendor for a day. My neighbour had a plum tree that was overloaded so I suggested letting me bag them and we would split the takings.
Well, I picked enough plums to make 64 bags of 2 pounds per bag.  Sold about 24 of them and gave the rest to the food bank.
Spent several hours the evening before weighing and bagging them, then several hours smiling at every passerby hoping they would buy. By the end of the day I was tired out.
That was the extent of my vendorism. Conclusion: I am not cut out to be a vendor.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  martha on 12/4/2014, 5:25 pm

Doesn't sound like the most fun ever.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  AtlantaMarie on 12/5/2014, 8:54 am

We've done some vendor stuff, but not at a farmer's mkt.

We're not doing it any more.  Boring, frustrating, not that profitable... 

I've got better things to do with my time.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Kelejan on 12/5/2014, 11:51 am

I agree with the boring part, AtlantaMarie, especially as it was a very tiny farmers' market that has not yet taken off due to out main vendor going elsewhere.
Pretty blue type. Very Happy


Well, it was blue in the typing box.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  martha on 12/6/2014, 12:03 pm

It has occurred to me a couple of times as a good idea. Most of my research ends up pointing to what you folks are saying - just say no!

Thank you for the feedback.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Kelejan on 12/6/2014, 12:27 pm

Any time Martha.  We are happy to save you some boring and unprofitable time and we give you an honest opinion.
It reminds me of when I started my current home business. I started from home then decided to get a small office to increase the turnover.  Sure, the turnover increased but only to the extant that it paid the rent, heat and internet. I started out at four hours per day, then reduced it to two, then quit.  I missed the freedom that I started with. but now I have it back and do more interesting things like lots of SFGing and it is just as profitable as when I started. No paid advertising, just word of mouth in a small community.

Just remembered; a couple of times I was so bored that I fell asleep. Couldn't do that at a farmers' market now.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Cajun Cappy on 12/6/2014, 12:29 pm

We looked in to it and down here in South Louisiana it is very highly regulated.  We checked with local markets and they require a contract, and list of items for sale and you cant change it with out a form and if you do not show up they charge you anyway. In short ridiculous and not at all for back yard gardeners.  Much more fun for us is trading stuff with the community.  We have what we refer to as our country boy network and constantly trade yard stuff as well as fish and game.  Currently we have a bumper crop of satsuma oranges and navels and are about to pick a bunch of holiday bags and with a Christmas card we will hang them on door knobs.  In return we will receive gifts of preserves, cookies etc.  Much more fun than sitting in the sun all afternoon.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Kelejan on 12/6/2014, 12:43 pm

So far we are not regulated in our small community; our three markets so far are run by a local community hall, the station museum and a local church.  They all charge only five dollars per table.  Two are outside seasonal and the hall is a year-round under the management of a new team that has revitalised it and now has a waiting list for vendors due to space of course. This time of year it is Christmas crafts etc., with a few cake and bread tables.  No veggies.  I was thinking of  have a sprout table in the New Year and ally it with worm castings, but I doubt I could grow enough to make any profit.
On second thoughts I will do better to use my own stuff to grow more veggies so that I can eat organic year round. Any excess over that can be shared with friends and the food bank. These thoughts just run through my mind and out. Very Happy

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  martha on 12/6/2014, 1:41 pm

I love Satsuma oranges! They are delicious, and they are downright fun to peel!

Kelejan, what is your present home based business? Isn't that everyone's dream, to be able to work at home? I know it is mine.

Our local markets are pretty strictly regulated, at least the handful of markets I have looked into. You do have to sign a contract. I don't know if you have to commit to the same products - that would leave me out. But you are allowed one unexcused and one excused absence per year, and you have to only sell what you produce. The main problem with that is that they do make it difficult to have someone man your booth for you, even on an occasional basis. 

There is one about 45 minutes from me that makes a significant profit for most vendors (according to two sources, one reliable, and one extremely reliable) but there is a huge waiting list to get in, and because of that, I haven't researched if I would qualify.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  boffer on 12/6/2014, 2:01 pm

I've been watching, and occasionally volunteering with, a local non-profit food co-op that is trying to get a farmer's market established in the nearest town to me of 6,000 residents.  They just finished their third season.

The regulations just to get the thing started were horrendous: minimum parking requirements, disability access, hand washing stations with hot water, Porta-potties, electrical power requirements, various business licenses, etc. just for a 5 hour market one day a week during the growing season.

Then the health department inspectors show up nearly every week unannounced looking for food handling violations.  Processed foods like honey, jelly, pickles, baked goods, etc. have to be processed in a certified commercial kitchen-no home canning or baking allowed.  Ranchers selling local organically grown meats can advertise, but  can't sell their products at the market because they don't have proper freezers; ice chests don't cut it.  

A friend of mine was trying to sell basketball size cabbages.  She cut one in half, and wrapped them in plastic wrap so customers could see the inside, and have the option of buying a smaller amount.  She was busted by the health inspector because only 'field cuts' are permitted for vegetables.  A field cut is what separates the sellable produce from the plant in the field.  No other cuts are permitted.

Vendor's selling artsy-craftsy merchandise (non-food) are required to collect sales tax which creates another set of obstacles.

There are 9-10 small commercial farmers who are the anchors that attract regular, repeat customers. The hobby-type vendors seem to come and go, after deciding that the time, effort, and expenses involved just aren't worth it.

It's been a tough slog for them, and this winter,  the board of directors will determine whether or not to continue next summer.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  sanderson on 12/6/2014, 2:19 pm

Boffer, Ditto in California. Lots of regulations so only commercial farmers find it profitable. From a retired Health Inspector.

PS Maybe direct selling to a "health food" store is a possibility. Most of what I see at a long-running health store in town, is dirty (dirt) or wilted and filled with bug holes. I thought about it with my flawless kale/chard. I haven't looked into the regs. Just a thought for an alternative.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  boffer on 12/6/2014, 3:19 pm

I used to volunteer at a natural/organic grocery store run by a food co-op.  Our insiders' joke was that holey leaves and earwigs on the corn tips were proof that the produce was organically grown!

We had local gardeners approach us about buying their produce.  The problem was that their harvest window was so short.  If we bought their produce, then we would have to modify our orders with the large suppliers, which then affected our volume purchase price.  There was very little profit in produce, and every penny counted.  And, we couldn't sell it as 'organic' unless the gardener had gone to the effort and expense of getting certified, which none did.  A lot of them ended up giving their surpluses to the local food banks.

I've always gotten a chuckle from the fact that the two products taking up the most shelf space in the store, and that provided the most profit, were 'natural/organic'  wines and potato chips!!

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Kelejan on 12/6/2014, 4:10 pm

Martha, my home business is selling printer toner and ink cartridges via online but only to people within my city and surrounding area, plus just a few friends outside, where I use drop shipment.  e.g. I have three customers who belong to the local camera club; they each have different printers; each printer take about ten different cartridges so I keep an inventory that totals over 30 different cartridges just for those three. What this means is that at any time they can ask for a cartridge and I will have it.  Very useful when they are in the middle of preparing for an exhibition etc.  At times I have delivered or collected on weekends, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve just because they rely on me heavily.  As they purchase a cartridge/s, I immediately put it on my to buy list, so that when I have sufficient to order, I pay only one lot of shipping/handling.
I also have a list of regular customers so I do the same for them, but the camera club members are my three largest.  All my customers know that if they get another printer and I do not have their cartridge in stock, I will order it on my next weekly order and they will get it the following day.  If they really must have it ASAP, they will pay extra for a drop shipment to their door. Therefore I no longer advertise as it is money down the drain, I rely on word-of-mouth.
This business works great for me as it keeps me in the business loop and there are things I can offset against the business such as the recent printer and computer upgrade I had. I do not put electricity or anything like that against the business so that if  eventually I sell my house there will be no capital gains tax.
In actual fact, my inventory takes up a couple of bookshelves and my computer is in the kitchen, very little room at all. Another advantage is that my book-keeping is minimal. I do have a business licence and registered for GST and PST taxes.
A call this business a micro-business.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  martha on 12/6/2014, 4:28 pm

This is excellent food for thought. thank you!

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FarmHer Jill, 22 years as a vendor at Farmer's Market

Post  cricket on 12/7/2014, 5:53 pm

I have been selling at several Farmer's Market since 1993.  

Rules and regulations were not in place when I first started and things have certainly changed over the years. 
If you are interested in taking your extra produce to a market, here are a few suggestions.

1.  Call your county extension and find out when the Health Inspector will be presenting the         annual meeting concerning, growing produce for market.  Take notes and ask questions!

2.  Follow all the rules, no matter how ridiculous they seem.

3.   Purchase a certified scale, a lightweight table, a nice table cover, and baskets or       
      containers for display.  Visit a market and observe how other vendors display their         
      produce.  Items placed in front sell well, and as your baskets empty of veges or fruit
      place them in smaller baskets, a small basket filled looks better than a large half empty
      one.  Posters and information about your garden/farm is interesting to your customers.

4.  Before you sell as a vendor, please visit other Farmer's Booths to see how their produce is
     priced.  Undercutting the Farmer's who make a living selling at market is not only unfair       to the Farmer, but also is detrimental to the success of the Market.  Wait until the last half     hour of market to discount your produce.  Give your extra to a food bank. 

5.  Smile, and be engaging with your customers.  Do not sit in a chair!  Always stand and 
     your sincerity about your delicious, fresh picked, home grown produce will help you have
     a successful day at market.  Also have recipes or suggestions about preparing your items.

6.  Going to Market is hard, sweaty work, but also very rewarding.  There is nothing better          than a customer saying, "Those are the BEST EGGS I HAVE EVER EATEN!"  Or, "I never
     knew broccoli tasted sooooo good."  

7.  Growing for market certainly won't make you rich, but how can you put a price on                observing mom's feeding their children nutrient rich foods grown without chemicals and           fertilizers.  Or the wealth my children have gained from living close to nature, learning         good work ethics and working together as a family. The rewards far out weigh the
     money-a-tary value.

8.  DON'T FORGET YOUR HAT.  Not only will this help keep the sun off your face, but my dad         always said,  "You can't make a deal if you are not wearing your farmer's hat."


                    FOR INFO ABOUT MY LITTLE FARM, GOING TO MARKET, AND MY CSA
                                                 
                                       http://cricketsongfarm.blogspot.com

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  sanderson on 12/8/2014, 12:25 am

Cricket,  Thant you for your advice.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/8/2014, 1:39 pm

Yeah, nice post, Cricket.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Kelejan on 12/8/2014, 4:21 pm

I think one needs to really enjoy the experience of being a vendor otherwise if you find it boring, then that must come across to the buyer?
 
When I visit our local Sunday indoor market I always know who I want to buy from as they are the ones who often talk to you first with a smile and a greeting.

I think that is why I was not a success with my one attempt, I needed to learn how to open up, not just hope people would buy from me, so that would mean going on a regular basis and working to make connections. 

Basically I am rather a reserved quiet  person. Embarassed Embarassed Embarassed

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  sanderson on 12/8/2014, 4:39 pm

Yep, gotta work the crowds. Some folks are shy and others know no stranger.

When DH and I go to the Farmers Market for their culls, he carries the buckets and I yak it up, pull out my iphone for photos, and the last time, a sample of the compost I make from their culls. When I return to DH, he asks, "And their underwear size is?" Our joke when I start talking to strangers. He said I am the only one he knows that can get on an elevator and get off knowing someone's UW size.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  boffer on 12/8/2014, 4:43 pm

^^   Razz

Cricket makes some great points about how to conduct one's business like a professional.  


@Kelejan wrote:I think one needs to really enjoy the experience of being a vendor otherwise if you find it boring, then that must come across to the buyer?
Absolutely.  My wife and I used to staff a vendor's booth together.  (not farmers' market) I detested every minute of it, and she had a ball.  If you looked at our individual sales at the end of the day, it would be easy to tell who was thriving, and who was surviving!

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  Kelejan on 12/8/2014, 4:46 pm

rofl     I must think "Underwear" next time I try to sell something.

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  sanderson on 12/8/2014, 4:48 pm

There you go!

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

Post  martha on 12/8/2014, 8:07 pm

Love it, Sanderson!

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Re: Has anyone been a vendor at a Farmer's Market?

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